Thursday, 2 October 2008

Smudge has tick fever ....

.... and I'm zonked.

Yesterday evening having written a cheerful catching up email to Pat in Mexico, I went for a walk with Smudge. He bounced (as much as his rickety old legs will let him) to the Merc and up the ramp that lets him get into the back, where he likes to sit facing backwards, grumbling at cars that tailgate.

One of the villages where we walk him is five minutes drive away. I parked in our usual place and opened the back. He likes to lean against the wheel arch for support and he just sat there. "Okay", I thought, "he's bored with here. We'll go a bit further, to the next village." Another five minutes or so away.

Again, when I opened the back, he just looked at me. So I tugged on his collar and he reluctantly stood up. It was then that I realised that the sweet sickly smell I had sub-consciously noticed in the car was because he had done his business. "Poor mite" I thought "he's embarrassed and that's why he doesn't want to get up and out of the car". So I tugged him down the ramp, cleaned him and the car as best I could and then watched him just stand there, swaying, tail between his legs, head hanging low. And it was only ten minutes ago that he bounced to the car. "Oh Lord" I thought "he's had a stroke, or something" So tugged him back up the ramp and drove home as quickly as possible, more concerned at what I could see happening in the rear-view mirror than looking ahead - as his head sunk lower and lower.

I left him in the car and sat with him in the drive as I waited for our vet to arrive, still thinking stroke or something as he lay there panting. We knew it was serious when he made no attempt to grumble at her as she examined him and took his temperature (high). Then she turned back his lips and showed me his pale gums - anaemia. And suddenly we were talking tick fever.

When feeding on the blood of its host, an infected tick passes a parasite which lodges in the red blood cells. The host body responds to the invasion by destroying red blood cells. Smudge's lethargy and panting were in response to the rapid onset of anaemia as his cells died and his heart struggled to pump round enough oxygenated blood.

This is life-threatening.

Taking no chances, our vet gave him three injections and I gave him a homeopathic remedy - ledum 1M - to support him. Tod carried him in and tucked him in bed. Our vet drove away in the dark, doing her best to reassure me.

The first twelve hours are the most critical. So we put a mattress in the kitchen and I settled down beside him, listening to his rapid, faint breathing and watching him just lying there in the faint glow of a nightlight. The slightest thing jerked me awake with a cold anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach. The American fridge turning on and off was thunderous. I thought I heard mice. Tod crept in to see how he was. I took the kitchen clock out because I couldn't hear his breathing over the ticking. Once or twice Smudge licked his lips, so using a syringe I trickled water into his mouth - dehydration is a serious risk. He took it without raising his head.

And then suddenly it was ten to seven on the microwave clock and we had come through the night and he was still with us. Our vet said he was tough.

I'm getting an early night tonight. I know I will sleep soundly and so will Smudge.

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